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  • Born In

    Neu-Ulm, Bayern, Germany

Who was/is Werner Müller? Well, he contributed numerous albums to London's Phase Four label, the longest-running of the Space Age Bachelor Pad series. But thanks to London's standard approach to liner notes, although we know exactly what channelization was used and what other Phase Four records were available, we are left knowing nothing of Werner Müller.

Fortunately, we don't have to depend on London for details. European light music fans came to know Müller from his many years as director of two of the leading popular radio orchestras in Germany. From 1948 to 1967, he led the Tanzorchester for the powerful station RIAS in Berlin. Bear Family collected a number of RIAS Tanzorchester recordings from the 1950s on Blende Auf. While with RIAS, he became associated with the singer Caterina Valente, whose cover of "Malaguena" was an international success. In an odd flip-flop, several collections of French, Italian, and other national tunes Müller recorded for Decca were released in Europe under the name of "Ricardo Santos," but in the U.S. under Müller's own name, as part of a series of "Musical Holiday" albums tied-in with the travel magazine, Holiday.

In 1967, Müller moved to Cologne to take over the Tanzorchester of radio station WDR, which had an even larger audience. Müller ensured his tenure with a versatile and perfectionist approach to his material, and as a result, his recorded material can be bold or boring, based on what the contract called for. On Hawaiian Swing, for example, he plays with right-left separation and tosses in an enjoyable assortment of percussion effects to liven up the usual selection of Hawaiian standards. On Percussion in the Sky, he uses wordless vocals, sound effects, whistling, and other touches to lend an other-worldly feeling to numbers like "The Theme from The High and the Might." In contrast, on albums like Werner Müller Plays Leroy Anderson or Great Strauss Waltzes, there's not much to write home about.

"Bodybuilder," from one of Müller's later albums, The Strip Goes On, was sampled as the basis for the song "Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out" by Bentley Rhythm Ace, a big club hit in the U.K. in 1997.

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